Sticky Rice & Drunken Noodles

Sticky Rice & Drunken Noodles

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Last weekend, we drove up the freeway to the Sticky Rice Cooking School on the Old Mount Barker Road.

The invitation suggested we “come journey around wonderful SE Asia. Full of vibrant, fresh, exciting flavours and dishes you will cook time and time again,” and we were more than willing to comply.

There was a wide range of menu options available: from Thai and Japanese to Morroccan and Mexican. I had ticked the box months before, choosing the menu I thought would strike a chord with the One & Only.  This included Korean crab cakes, Thai ceviche, Crying Tiger char-grilled beef and Drunken Noodles. It promised to be a nostalgic evening among all those South East Asian aromas and flavours we had been missing since we left Bangkok all those years ago.

Warning: this menu is not for vegans or anyone allergic to seafood or nuts. Nor is it suitable for coeliacs.

We were advised to arrive fifteen minutes early for a 5:30pm start, and by the time the clock struck, we had donned our aprons and our name tags, and we were raring to go. Daniel had given us a warm welcome and a potted history of the school. We had admired the décor and chatted briefly with our fellow students.


Then Daniel introduced our diminutive Japanese chef, Yukiko, who proved to have a quick wit and a direct approach to discipline. “You can call me Yuki for short – yookee, not yucky!” And we quickly got the message that she would not tolerate her students stepping out of line! She explained firmly that we would not be given the recipes until the end of the evening. Years of running a cooking school had proven time and again that students would not listen properly to instructions if they were reading from the recipes.

She probably had a point.

Carefully, Chef Yuki scanned the room and divided us into groups. Only then were we allowed to accompany her to the kitchen and find our places. Once we had been neatly arranged around three large kitchen benches, Chef Yuki ran through the rules, advising us that the knives were exceptionally sharp, and fingers must go in the white bin provided for scraps!

The good news was that we were not required to do any washing up, as she had a magic trolley (like the magic coffee table if you’ve seen the comedy skit), and all we had to do was load it up with dirty dishes and utensils and leave it for the washing up fairy.

The bad news was that the magic trolley wasn’t for sale.

We then chose a team leader and name for our group – “The Cassava Crackers” – before Chef ran us through our cooking instructions. It all sounded a little daunting at first, but in fact, with six cooks per group, each chore was quickly designated and almost as quickly completed.

Someone took charge of the mortar and pestle, someone else braved the lethally sharp knives and diced the onions, I peeled the pre- cooked potatoes for the crab cakes with a spoon – a new cooking tip which allows me to go home and throw out all my peelers. I suspect the potato in these crab cakes is a Jamie Oliver addition, as I have rarely seen potatoes used in SE Asia. Smashed spud certainly makes for a heavier patty, converting it from light snack to a filling meal.

At some point we also learned a new trick for preparing lemon grass – well, it was new to all of us – and a quick and easy method for making lemongrass oil. But you needn’t ask,  I’m not sharing secrets. You will just have to do the class.

We took a break about 7:30 to taste our crab cakes and sip a glass of wine – “just one,” Chef Yuki told us firmly, as she would not tolerate giggling, chattering women when she was trying to teach. Firm, but fair. We came back to the kitchen with little left to do but plate up the main courses and cook the noodles.

The lime cured kingfish ceviche was served with lime and coconut dressing. The only tricky part was learning to wield those deadly knives in a minute, then attempt to carve the kingfish into professional slivers. My efforts were far from professional, but others did better.

The steak – here’s one we had prepared earlier – was sliced and served with a wrap-your-own platter of lettuce and cucumber, mint, basil and cassava crackers, and a drizzle of dazzling peanut and lime chilli dipping sauce. Then the broad rice noodles were tossed in a sizzling wok with chicken, vegetables, and kaffir lime. (Drunken Noodles, or Pad Kee Mao is spicy and savoury, unlike Pad Thai, which has a sweeter sauce made of tamarind and palm sugar. Yum!)

Daniel poured more local wine as we arranged our beautifully prepared platters on the tables in the dining room. Then we all sat down eagerly to enjoy a delectable banquet.

So why is it called Crying Tiger, you ask? Chef Yuki says it’s because the beef is supposed to be rare, so it should drip tears of blood when you carve it, but another story is that the fat weeps from the steak on the hot grill. And despite its name, Drunken Noodles does not contain alcohol of any kind, and each story I have heard regarding the origins of its name gets wilder and wilder. I think I’ll just make up my own!

For those keen cooks coming from further afield than the Adelaide Plains, who might like a longer break in the Adelaide Hills, Sticky Rice has villas available, inspired by Balinese, Japanese and Thai architecture. Three ladies from Sydney told us they were very comfortable indeed.

It was a fun-filled evening, and we made lots of new friends over the pots and pans, wine and noodles. In fact, we felt we had made a surprisingly successful team, considering none of us had met previously. I would go up to Sticky Rice again in a heartbeat, and maybe take on a Mexican menu next time? Or perhaps an afternoon of making dumplings? And the thought of staying in one of those beautiful villas is terribly tempting, too…

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